When I showed negativity toward the “bi-partisan” $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal ($579 billion of which is new spending), a person asked me what would I do.
For the sake of the argument, let us first remove a possible thought that there might be a way for government not to be in charge of the roads at all. After all, the money is collected up from private citizens and then given to private companies. The government acts as nothing more than a costly middle man in the situation, and some think it could be removed.
In the list of things that government does that maybe it shouldn’t do, roads are at the bottom of the list. Let’s just continue under the presumption that government has a role in maintaining and creating roads.
How much of a role does the federal government actually need to play in infrastructure is the next thing to consider in the overall discussion. 97% of roads and bridges are under the control of state and local governments. For that reason, another discussion is worth having regarding the role of federal government. For the sake of discussing the bill itself, let us also push this debate to the side.
Let us also pretend every dollar in the bill is worth spending and only going to infrastructure. Though, this would be another large debate that probably isn’t going to end well, but once again, I want to actually discuss how to properly pay for this bill.
So at this point we are pretending that the entire $1.2 trillion is worth spending, necessary, and the place of the federal government to do it. How should we pay for it? The spending in the bill would take place over 8 years.
The current revenue collected by the federal gas tax is $38 billion a year. That would be $304 billion over 8 years.
NEA has a budget of $162 million, NEH has a budget of $162.5 million, IMLS $280 million, the Smithsonian $1.047 billion. This totals out at $1.651 billion. After all, if our roads and bridges are crumbling to a point that we need to spend this kind of money, how are we going to get to the museums? That would be $13 billion over 8 years.
The US Government spends about $40 billion in foreign aid per year. If our streets and roads need repair, let’s stop spending money on other countries streets and roads. That would be $320 billion over 8 years.
The US military budget is $934 Billion a year. Draw down the number of active troops in the Middle East and we should be able to make a 7.5% cut to military spending. After all, even if we only have operators and air support in foreign conflict, we should be able to lower our over all spending. A 7.5% reduction would be $70.05 billion a year or $560.4 billion over 8 years.
The government estimates it spends $2 billion a year on vacant buildings (imagine the debt we could pay down if we sold them) that would be $16 billion over 8 years.
The government spends $1.5 billion a year on advertising. Last I checked, propaganda shouldn’t take priority over roads. That would be $12 billion over 8 years.
Those reductions would be $1.225 trillion—more than enough to cover this deal with out needing to borrow another dime.
Now, how do I actually propose we fix the infrastructure in America?
Considering the federal government only takes care of 3% of roads, here is what I suggest: cut the federal gas tax down to only 6% of what it is now. This would allow most states to double their road funds without taking another dime out of taxpayers’ pockets. This would greatly reduce the administrative cost of federal funded roads.
Additionally, stop allowing no-bid contracts that have a far greater tendency to go over budget and be more costly. Audit the states’ departments of transportation to ensure proper spending and bidding procedures.
These simple changes would result in a significant increase in road quality without needing to even make a single cut (although they should cut anyway) or a tax increase for the citizens.